Do Not Fight God
Published by Stanley Pouw in 2023 · 12 March 2023
There is a long war against God. It’s been going on ever since Satan decided to be like the Most High and was dispossessed of his holiness and thrown out of heaven. His name became Satan. He took with him a third of the angels; they become the demons, and they have orchestrated this war against God. They use human beings to try to destroy God and his purposes and his kingdom.
And here I want to inform your thinking tonight on the theme of the stupidity of fighting God. In Proverbs 21:30, Solomon said, “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor council against the LORD.” There’s no way to fight Him and win. Many have tried through the centuries and are still fighting God. There may be triumph in an earthly way, but ultimately it is eternal disaster.
Look at the Old Testament. God had a standard for sacrifice. Abel obeyed it; Cain fought it and wound up cursed. God made a standard for morality. Noah kept it and the rest of the world fought it and were drowned and damned. God had a standard for separation from the world, a standard for sexual purity. Abraham kept it and Lot fought it, and his wife died and his seed was cursed.
God had a standard for spiritual priorities, not earthly ones. Jacob kept that standard; Esau fought it and lost the blessing. And there in Genesis alone, you see the hopeless stupidity of fighting God. Frankly, history and the world is strewn with the shattered remains of men and women who threw themselves against God. They were like eggs thrown against a granite cliff.
In Exodus, you continually meet rulers who fight against God. The first such ruler to fight God is Pharaoh. It cost him his throne, his people, and his life. There were many kings of Northern Palestine who fought against God. Joshua, burned their chariots with fire, and killed them all with the sword. There were 31 rulers who fought God and were slain by Moses and Joshua.
There was another king who was wicked, in 2 Kings 19:35 we read about king Ahab, who fought God. “Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, he lived at Nineveh.”
Let’s look now at Acts 12 where we start to touch the family of Herod. The first Herod was known as Herod the Great. And he appears in 41 BC, before the time of Christ. He was a wicked man and married ten times. So he had a lot of children that are mentioned in the New Testament. One of his children was Herod Agrippa I who was in power at that time. He is the example of the folly of fighting against God.
Acts 12:1, “Now about that time Herod the king harassed some from the church.” When? The time of great famine during the reign of Claudius. It was around 44 years after the birth of Christ. James and Peter became the main target of this persecution. Early on only the leaders of the Jews told them not to preach. And they were imprisoned and Stephen was stoned to death.
But here persecution comes again, and it is led by Herod. The Jerusalem congregation by now has grown to be many thousands of people. Herod did not care about Christianity. He only cared for his own power. And maintaining his own power, meant having good relationships with the Jews. So he persecuted Christians because he knew the Jews hated them, and this was how he could get their support.
Verse 2, “He had James the brother of John put to death with a sword.” James the brother of John, is the first martyr among the apostles. He was executed by a sword. And the Jewish Talmud tells us that this execution was used when someone lead the people to worship other gods. So Herod is doing it according to Talmudic law. Herod is at war against God for his own selfish purposes.
Verse 3, “And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter.” He had no concern for justice or law. And Peter was the most powerful preacher, the dominant force. “Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread.” That’s the Passover. That’s important. Jerusalem was full of crowds, just packed with pilgrims. Herod wanted to wait because it was the Passover time.
Verse 4 says, “When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people.” Verse 5, “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” In Acts 12 you can conclude that there are three reasons why it is foolish to fight God.
Number one, God’s power is overwhelming. This is proven by the account of Peter’s imprisonment. Herod put him in jail; God let him out. God wasn’t through with Peter. He had more work here on earth to do, and Herod’s efforts to destroy Peter was like trying to catch a ray of light in a fishing net. And James 5:16 says, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Prayer becomes the key to opening the storehouse of God’s power in this situation. And while they were praying, God in his marvelous power was affecting his purpose. Verse 6, “And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and guards before the door were keeping the prison.” And it says that Peter was sleeping.
That’s how confident he was. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care on Him for He cares for you.” This wasn’t something he hadn’t practiced. He knew the Passover was over. It never disturbed his rest. And knows that the Lord never sleeps and never slumbers and if that’s true of the Lord, there’s no sense in both of us staying awake. So he did not worry at all and he slept soundly.
Verse 7, “Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.” Now, he is in such a sound sleep, that an angel had to strike him. Verse 8, “Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
Verse 9-10, “So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron-gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.”
The outside main gate was massive but it just opened by itself. All of Herod’s power was no contest for God. He burst that gate open with a breath of his mouth; He shattered those shackles. And then the angel, who had done his task, ministering to the saints as Hebrews 1:14 says angels do, just disappeared. We need to be reminded that no prison can hold the servant of God whom God wants free.
Verse 11, “And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.” The Jewish people along with Herod wanted Peter in prison and executed after the Passover, they wanted him dead. But in either case, they were thwarted.
Verse 12, “So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.” He makes his way through the narrow streets to one of the chief meeting places for the Christians in Jerusalem, namely the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark. And Peter goes there because he knows the believers will be there.
Verse 13-14, “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate.” They were praying passionate prayers for Peter to be delivered. This kind of committed prayer was going on all night. It must have been late into the night.
Verse 15, “But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.” They invent a theology here to accommodate their unbelief. That’s a Jewish belief that everybody had his own angel and that’s not even taught in the New Testament. So Peter is out there, and he is still banging, because he does not want to be found.
Verse 16 - 17, “Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.” And he departed and went to another place.” James was the head of the church in Jerusalem.
We don’t know where he went. He faded out. And it’s interesting, that when you come to Acts 13, we are introduced to Paul. Peter is the main player in God’s enterprise in Acts 1 to 12, but from Acts 13 on, it’s Paul. Peter reappears in Acts 15, but really his ministry in Jerusalem was nearly finished. His time is up in the book of Acts, and a new and significant figure comes into play.
Verse 18 - 19, “Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19 But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.” He conducted a speedy court martial for these soldiers and they were executed.
Verse 20, “Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus, the king’s personal aide, their friend. They asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.” Tyre and Sidon are two Phoenician seaboard cities. They were very much dependent on Herod for their food during this time of famine.
Herod was intensely displeased with them. So he had cut them off, and they were hurting. Now, in order to get into Herod’s good graces again, they made friends with Blastus, the guard of Herod’s private treasure. They wanted to find the best way to present themselves to the king in person and make peace in public so they could have a good relationship and get some food to eat.
Verse 21-22, “So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. 22 And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” All the people from Tyre and Sidon tell him that he is a God. And instead of refusing such worship for he is just a man, he readily accepts it. He is trying to rob God of what God alone is due.
Verse 23, “Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.” And because God’s purposes cannot be frustrated. Verse 24-25, “But the word of God grew and multiplied. 25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.”
The work of God continued. Persecution didn’t stop it. Remember the words of Jesus, “I’ll build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” That is the promise. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Genesis or Revelation. Any attempt to fight God is absolutely, totally futile. We cannot avoid His punishment. You cannot frustrate His plan. Isaiah says, “Woe unto him that fights with his maker.”
Don’t fight His Son. You can’t win. Herod, anti-Christ, other rulers, or any other human being will be devastated by the judgment of God. Earnest Hemmingway wrote on one occasion that Biblical morality was not going to impose itself on his life. He said, “I am living proof that one can live any way he chooses and succeed.” Ten years after that day, he put a shotgun in his mouth and blew his brain out.
Then there was Sinclair Lewis, who was at one time, the toast of the literary world. He hated God, Christ and hated Christianity, and spewed out the venom of his hatred in a book entitled Elmer Gantry. That book later became a film, where he depicted the preacher as a drunken, fornicating man who spent his time with booze and prostitutes and getting rich at the expense of people.
That was his slam at the face of God; that was his mockery of Christianity. And he was hailed as the toast of the literary world and won many prizes for his genius as a writer. Few people know that Sinclair Lewis died a slobbering drunk in a third-rate alcoholic clinic somewhere outside Rome in utter obscurity. Nobody wins who fights against God, be he king or pauper.
Here we are given two real instances where we see the power of God in freeing Peter from the best jail where he was held captive by four squads of soldiers who chained Peter to two soldiers on either side. Yet and angel of God freed him with no trouble. And then we see what happened to Herod Agrippa I where God punished him for accepting praise that only God can accept. Nothing is impossible for God. Let us pray.